When I had a baby, everything changed.
Not just my jean and bra size—which went up exponentially— or my bank account balance—which disappeared faster than the “good” potato salad at the family reunion—but also, my psyche changed.
My mentality, my daily emotional state of being, my relationships and how I looked at the world around me changed – all of it was different. All of it mattered and none of it mattered. If it wasn’t leading toward the best possible life for me, my child and her future, it was up for grabs.
Having a child made a ‘garage sale at the 24th hour’ out of my life. I was willing to let go of anything and anyone who no longer served me, us or our highest good – and I was willing to do it at all costs or at no cost. It’s why I left my daughter’s father just after her first birthday and moved out of state with her, without his permission, a few months later.
But there’s always a cost. Whether you see it, feel it, or just hear about it in passing, there’s always a cost. Do you incur it right away, like a luxury tax, for choosing yourself and the future of your child? Sometimes not. Sometimes you can go an entire 12 years before the fines of, as Audre Lorde so eloquently said, “defining yourself for yourself” are levied against you.
Enter, The Best Man: The Final Chapter.
We all have our favorite characters. Some of us are very Jordan-esque: career-driven, level-headed and assertive. Others are more Robyn: community-minded, creatively passionate, conflict-averse and accommodating. And then still, there’s Shelby: bold, somewhat aggressive, demanding, seeking only the best for herself. If you ask my exes, they’ll tell you I’m 100 percent Shelby, and neither of them would be 100 percent wrong. However, it was Robyn and the storyline around her marriage to Harper, who is played by Taye Diggs, that struck several chords with me and, in the end, left me ugly crying and apologizing to the ghost of my daughter’s father.
In episode 6, we see Robyn grapple with not feeling seen in her marriage for 20 years. By episode 8, Robyn decides she is taking her child she shares with Harper and moving to Ghana, without discussing it with him first. Initially, he attempts to legally block her decision, but eventually concedes and allows the move with his child, half a world away. It was the portrayal of the aftermath of this decision, the ripple effect, if you will, that sent me over the edge.
You see, I, too—and I suspect many other women—have had to make the incredibly difficult decision to become a single parent. And don’t get it twisted – it *is* a decision for many of us. It’s a decision to either continue living a life that does not serve us but maintains some semblance of stability or leaving to serve ourselves, show our children what love is not and what self-love is.
It’s deciding what you’ve accepted as “enough” is no longer enough and silently saying, “I…we…deserve better.”
And so in 2010, facing insurmountable odds, I made the decision to become a single parent, I moved out of state with my daughter and told her father only days after we’d settled into our new home. I knew he’d be upset, and predicted the barrage of insults I received through the telephone. What I did not predict or even think about was what the emotional toll my decision might look or feel like for him.
Like Robyn, I put my blinders on and went full-steam ahead with my own plan. I felt a need to prioritize my own well-being and that of my child.
Dayna Lynne North, executive producer of The Best Man: The Final Chapters, said it so eloquently:
“We saw Robyn for the first time, putting her own blinders on and saying ‘I want to prioritize me for my child, but also for me, for the first time in my adult life. And what does prioritizing yourself look like? For Robin, it looked like moving to Ghana for however long she needed to be there.”
But what was left in the wake of her decision and mine? A man who loved his child. A man who we witness openly grieving not only the dissolution of his marriage but the loss of his child. First, we see the anger which is to be expected, but then we see the hurt – the deep, deep hurt felt by Harper. When asked why she chose to portray Harper’s hurt in this way, North said, “I think it speaks to this generational thing that is happening. There’s self-worth, and understanding and, a certain level of self. Men may not be with the mother of their children, but that doesn’t change their interest in being a father to their children.”
At that moment, I realized I had never seen that perspective played out on television, but I’d also never thought about how that hurt would impact my child’s father. Our daughter was his entire world: the sun, moon and stars to him. I hadn’t allowed myself to humanize the part of him that feels, and those scenes forced me to. Viewing an emotionally-devastated Harper forced me to reckon with inflicting deep, lasting, traumatic hurt on another human being, and regardless of how I felt about him or our relationship, I never wanted to do that.
In that moment of reckoning, the ripple came back to the shore. Faced with the posthumous humanity of my daughter’s father, I apologized.